Recently, large fragments of China’s Long March 5B rocket plunged uncontrolled into the south-central Pacific Ocean. This was reported by the US Space Command. The fragments were stages of the rocket used to deliver the third and final module of the Tiangong space station.

 

Background

  • Few days back, China had launched its Long March 5B rocket to deliver the third and final module of the Tiangong space station.
    • China currently relies on the Long March 5B to carry its heaviest payloads to space.
    • For the latest mission, the rocket carried Mengtian, a science laboratory module, to Tiangong.
  • The rocket broke up during re-entry and plunged uncontrolled into the south central Pacific Ocean.
  • One of the pieces was left over from the core stage of the rocket that was about 30 metres long and weighed between 17-23 tonnes.

 

About the Tiangong Space Station

  • Tiangong (or Heavenly Palace) is a T-shaped space station being constructed by China in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km above the surface.
  • The construction of the station is based on the experience gained from its precursors, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2.
  • Once completed, Tiangong will have a mass roughly one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.
  • It will be only the second such station after the International Space Station in orbit.
    • In May 2021, China launched Tianhe, the first of the orbiting space station’s three modules.
      • The country aims to finish building the station by the end of 2022.
    • In June 2021, China had launched three astronauts into orbit to begin occupation of the country’s new space station.
  • Tiangong will be much smaller than the International Space Station (ISS), with only three modules compared with 16 modules on the ISS.